5 Fun Ways to Leaf Peep in the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains are a year-round treat for nature lovers. There’s the sparkling white wonderland of deep winter. The sweet, gentle breezes of springtime. The wild-flower strewn meadows of high summer. But autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains is particularly special. If you’re looking for a family-friendly adventure for your whole gang— or a cozy, peaceful getaway for two— take a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains this fall.

For some truly epic leaf-peeping, October and November are an ideal time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains. The cooler temperatures and shorter days bring out some dramatic color changes in the forest. Burnished gold, bright yellow, and luscious red leaves light up the hills with their show-stopping hues. Rent a cabin in the mountains this October or November and soak up the vivid fall colors.

Here are the five best ways we’ve found to enjoy the fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Take A Hike

Peeping the fall color foliage from your birds-eye view balcony is breathtaking. But to experience this magical season in the Great Smoky Mountains properly, get yourself out on a hiking trail. The Smoky Mountains have some of the best hiking in the world. Taking a hike during the peak of leaf-changing season is nothing short of spectacular.
For a moderate, enjoyable hike through the falling leaves, try the popular Porter Creek Trail near Gatlinburg. It’s a seven-mile out-and-back loop through thick foliage. The trail takes you past a burbling creek, a historic cemetery, and an old barn and farm site. Don’t miss the grand finale— the trail ends at a cascading waterfall.

Visit A Festival

For fans of everything pumpkin-spiced, there’s nothing quite like an autumn-themed festival. And Dollywood’s Harvest Festival & Great Pumpkin LumiNights in Pigeon Forge is the perfect spot for fall fun. Like it's famous owner Dolly Parton— Dollywood is pure, kitschy fun and immensely entertaining!
Sip some cinnamon hot chocolate and nibble on a caramel-covered apple. Check out some master pumpkin carvers at work. Kids will love the glow-in-the-dark face painting and pumpkin-spice funnel cakes. There are also thousands of illuminated jack-o-lanterns scattered throughout the falling leaves. The popular festival runs until late November. Don’t miss it!

Pick Fresh Produce

Capture the crisp fall vibe of peak leaf-peeping season with a visit to a colorful farmers market. The classic, family-friendly Gatlinburg Farmers Market is in its 10th successful season. Don’t forget your reusable canvas bags! Stock up on seasonal organic produce, homemade jams, home-sewn items, local honey, fragrant handmade soaps, and fresh-baked bread. Slow down and stroll through the falling leaves. Taste the local flavors. Peep the vibrant fall colors. Savor the small-town Smoky Mountain vibe. The farmers market takes place every Saturday morning from 8:30 AM until Noon. Catch it now— before it closes for the year in late October.

Catch A Trout Or Two

Slip-on your waders, grab your lucky rod and reel and head out to the sparkling Smoky Mountain streams for the 19th annual Fall Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament.. The tournament is held on October 6th and 7th in Pigeon Forge. This family-friendly event welcomes fishermen of all ages and abilities. Thousands of trout will be stocked in over 20 miles of streams for the popular two-day event. Enjoy gorgeous fall color views and burbling mountain streams. Revel in the down-home country spirit that the Great Smoky Mountains are famous for. Bonus— not only will you catch a few yummy trout, but you may also catch over $10,000 in prize money!

Leaf Peep on Horseback

Cades Cove Riding Stables urge you to “indulge your unbridled spirit” and see the fall colors and changing leaves on horseback. You’re in good hands! They’re the only national park-authorized stables in the Great Smoky Mountains. They cater to all levels of riders and offer a “trip back in time” through the lush wilderness of Cades Cove. Choose from guided trail rides on horseback, tractor-driven hayrides, or luxurious carriage rides with a private guide. Breathe in the brisk mountain air and enjoy a classic Smoky Mountain adventure.

No matter what time of year, it’s always the right time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains. And the fall leaf-peeping season in the Great Smoky Mountains is an unforgettable experience. For magnificent views from the treetops rent one of our cabins in the Brother’s Cove Resort. Take in the majestic mountain views from your private hot tub. You’ll still be close to all the fall festival action and local activities. Nestled high in the trees in this gated community, homes like Highland Lodge and Perfect Peace will give you a front-row seat to the spectacular fall color display.